Three students have spent the last year as key members of our team at Wilton in the UK, getting a thorough taste for life at a world-leading producer of MMA.

Elinor Northey from the University of Manchester, Chloe Fletcher and Tim Hilton, both from the University of St Andrews, had a conversation about their year as Chemical Industrial Trainees, what they’ve learned and what the future might hold…

Pictured: Elinor, Chloe and Tim.

“I’m local to the area and had previously done some laboratory work for Lucite International (LI) in the summer after my first year at university”, says Elinor. “I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to come back!”

“I’ve always wanted to complete an industrial placement and LI was one of the top companies to apply for due to its innovative research”, adds Chloe. “Additionally, a previous student from my university conducted their placement here and they had a lot of positive comments.”

Tim says: “As an LI placement student at Ingenza (our biotechnology partner), I get to see our R&D developments within the project every day. I wanted to do a placement with LI because of the pioneering, new and exciting research projects.”

Tell us about your typical working day…

Elinor: “It’s been so varied. Normally I’ve been managing my time between laboratory work and data analysis, then preparing my results into presentations for meetings and reports.”

Chloe: “I had a main project and numerous other varied projects which helped our Alpha production plants. I had to effectively spend time between lab work and data analysis to meet all the deadlines, write up the results and present to other researchers and engineers.”

Tim: “I mostly work in the analytical chemistry lab, understanding just what products we have made using our organisms. The bio-MMA project is really innovative and interesting – the merging of Chemistry and Biology in the search of sustainable manufacturing for the future.”

What are the top three things you’ve learned from your time here?

Elinor: “Everyone is here to help you – LI really supports and encourages students. Also, what makes a good presentation and how to field difficult questions with confidence. Lastly, it doesn’t matter if your experiment doesn’t quite go to plan, you can always learn from it and just try again. This is a research environment, after all!”

Chloe: “Firstly, this year has helped me to broaden my practical lab skills such as gas chromatography and autoclave equipment. Secondly, I’ve learned many valuable soft skills, such as presentation, which are not taught directly during a degree. Thirdly, I’ve developed my time management skills which has allowed multiple projects to be completed within short timescales.”

Tim: “I’ve learned that in order for a project to be successful, many people have to work together. Also, I’ve learned how to easily communicate the ideas and work you are doing to the rest of the team, something I hope will help me in my final year at university. And lastly, I’ve definitely improved in my practical skills and knowledge of analytical chemistry.”

How do you think this will help you achieve your goals in the future?

Elinor: “Being surrounded by people who are passionate about their work really motivates you. I’ve gained so much from being able to spend a full year with daily laboratory work. I’ve used so many techniques I wouldn’t have got the opportunity to use at university. Now I can go back to my final year with a lot more confidence in my skills; such as working independently and managing my own time.

Chloe: “The skills and experience that I’ve gained at Lucite International will not only help me to complete my master’s degree at the University of St Andrews but it will also help provide a strong foundation to secure a future successful job in STEM.”

Tim: “By getting to develop and understand my own part within the project by meeting all of the partners working with LI, you see how you fit together in the jigsaw. I’ve still got one more year at university to do, but I’m now considering going on to study a PhD, hopefully while also working in industry.”

Describe life at Lucite International in three words…

Elinor: “Collaborative, encouraging, sociable (cake-orientated!)”

Chloe: “Engaging, friendly, innovative.”

Tim: “Innovative, eventful, unforgettable.”